[From Cyril Richert: This is the recommendation for refusal from English Heritage received by the Council on May the 29th (I’ve chosen to put in bold some parts). You can download the original letter here.]
The site is currently occupied by a five storey office building, of mid-20th century origin. The buildings is of little historic or architectural merit, and English Heritage has no objection to the principle of it redevelopment. The site is within the Clapham Junction Conservation Area, and viewable in the context of the Grade II listed Falcon Public House, and the Grade II Listed Arding & Hobbs (now Debenhams) department store. It is proposed to demolish the existing 5 storey building and erect a 16 storey replacement.
English Heritage Advice
The applicant’s Conservation Area and historic building planning appraisal states that the existing building fails to make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. While English Heritage does not disagree with this statement, by virtue of its scale and massing, we consider the existing structure relatively ‘neutral’ in its impact on the Conservation Area’s character and appearance. However, the proposed replacement building has a considerably larger scale and massing than the existing structure.
We have strong concerns about a building of this size within the context of Clapham Junction Conservation Area. There is no precedent fo a tall building within the area, which is characterised by Victorian and Edwardian architecture no greater than seven storey of height.
The crossroads of St John’s Road/St John’s Hill/Falcon Road/ LavenderHill forms a focal point to the Conservation Area, with the Falcon Public House, the Arding & Hobbes store and 276 Lavender Hill all benefiting from curved facades which reinforce the spatial qualities of the junction. Additional prominence is given to the junction though the use ornamentation at the upper levels of these buildings; a cupola to the department store, a dome to 276 Lavender Hill and a decorative parapet and dormers to the Falcon. The proposed building will be unduly prominent in the context of this junction and diminish its significance and status to the detriment of the Conservation Area’s character and appearance. The proposals will also adversely affect the setting of both the Grade II Listed Falcon Public House and former Arding & Hobbs department store.
Notwithstanding the harm a tall building at this location would cause to Clapham Junction Conservation Area, we also have significant concerns about the design quality of the proposed building. The design and access statement supplied with the application notes that the proposed building has a principal elevation addressing Falcon Road. A suitably detailed elevation to Falcon Road is vital to the quality of the development, but we feel that less consideration has been given to upper levels of the building at its Mossbury Road (Souther elevation). The upper levels of the building will be extremely prominent from the aforementioned crossroads at the heart of this junction and reinforces its status as the focal point of the Conservation Area.
The proposed Eastern elevation of the building also gives cause for concern. While we recognise that the limited amount of fenestration on this elevation is a direct response to the implication of overlooking residential properties on Mossbury Road, this has resulted in a blank façade with little interaction or acknowledgement of its surroundings. While not within the Conservation Area, the Victorian Terraced properties of Mossbury Road contribute to the Conservation Area’s wider setting. The proposed development will introduce a significant visual interjection between the Conservation Area and Mossbury Road, and this should be partially mitigated through a carefully-considered Eastern elevation.
English Heritage considers that the proposals fail to respond to the Conservation Area context, and detract from the character and appearance of the Conservation Area by virtue of inappropriate scale and height. We also consider the proposals to adversely affect the setting of Grade II Listed Falcon Public House and former Arding and Hobbs department store.
We wish to register an objection to this application, and urge the Council to recommend refusal of planning permission.
Historic Buildings and Areas Adviser